Fostering Community Well-Being Through Energy-Sector Investments

A trainee at the Strath­more Ener­gy Research Cen­tre in Nairo­bi, Kenya installing solar pan­els. Strath­more Uni­ver­si­ty Training

The pos­i­tive impacts of renew­able ener­gy devel­op­ment for peo­ple and the plan­et are wide­ly acknowl­edged. How­ev­er, the direct con­tri­bu­tion of local renew­able ener­gy projects to local com­mu­ni­ty well-being has received lim­it­ed atten­tion to date. Our new study describes a social per­for­mance approach to invest­ing in the ener­gy sec­tor that focus­es on pro­mot­ing the well-being of indi­vid­u­als and ener­gy project host communities.

While the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment and the 2030 Agen­da for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment, with its Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs), have been right­ful­ly cel­e­brat­ed as glob­al mile­stones towards secur­ing liveli­hoods and oppor­tu­ni­ties now and in the future, they lack soci­etal own­er­ship among com­mu­ni­ties, who play a deci­sive role in dri­ving the nec­es­sary sus­tain­abil­i­ty transformation.

The many pos­i­tive effects of local ener­gy projects, such as com­mu­ni­ty rev­enues, are large­ly regard­ed as sec­ondary co-ben­e­fits, if not entire­ly ignored by devel­op­ment poli­cies and prac­tices. Tap­ping into these oppor­tu­ni­ties for effec­tive poli­cies and prac­tices in cli­mate action and inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment calls for a dif­fer­ent approach to sus­tain­able ener­gy devel­op­ment: a social per­for­mance approach to ener­gy devel­op­ment and invest­ment of the kind.

An impor­tant aspect of this social per­for­mance approach is its focus on the direct con­tri­bu­tion of sus­tain­able ener­gy invest­ments in fos­ter­ing the well-being of indi­vid­u­als in a man­ner that reflects their aspi­ra­tions for good qual­i­ty of life. Ener­gy pol­i­cy should not sim­ply be mon­i­tored to assess its inci­den­tal co-ben­e­fits, but should be inten­tion­al­ly designed and imple­ment­ed with a view to max­imis­ing the social per­for­mance of local ener­gy projects and con­tribut­ing to the UN Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals.

Mbun­gu, G. K., & Hel­gen­berg­er, S. (2021). The social per­for­mance approach. Fos­ter­ing com­mu­ni­ty well-being through ener­gy-sec­tor invest­ments. IASS Dis­cus­sion Paper, June 2021. DOI: 10.48481/iass.2021.017